Main I am that girl : how to speak your truth, discover your purpose, and #bethatgirl

I am that girl : how to speak your truth, discover your purpose, and #bethatgirl

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In a crazy, media distracted world the important questions often get lost like: What's your passion? What's your purpose? Who do you want to be? Alexis Jones has built a career listening to and helping girls around the world figure out those questions in order to inspire them to think for themselves, to speak their truth, to discover their purpose, and to dream HUGE! Alexis believes that you're not broken nor do you need to be fixed. You already are that girl who creates magic wherever she goes, who lives fearlessly, who inspires those around her to dream bigger, and who will leave the world better, just for having been in it. Stop listening to that voice inside your head that tells you you're not good enough. Stop worrying that you don't have the perfect body, perfect job, perfect relationship, or perfect anything for that matter. Stop letting other people draw boundaries and limits around your life. And start living the life that you truly want (now!), the one you didn't think you had the courage to imagine, but the one that's absolutely possible! Including stories from thirty incredible women, Alexis has compiled everything she's learned into one complete guide to being That Girl, the best version of you
Year:
2014
Publisher:
Evolve Publishing, Inc.
Language:
english
Pages:
282
ISBN 10:
0989322289
ISBN 13:
9780989322270
File:
EPUB, 293 KB
Download (epub, 293 KB)

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CHAPTER 8


THAT GIRL MANIFESTO

I am enough. I have enough. I do enough.

I am me. Every day.

Not who I think others expect me to be,

But the real, unedited, beauty-full, perfectly flawed version.

I choose to think for myself.

I speak my truth

And wrestle with life’s tough questions over and over again.

I daydream about a better world and strive to make it my reality.

My purpose drives me

And I give it the freedom to change and evolve.

I breathe life to my dreams and to the dreams of others.

I believe in magic. I look for it everywhere.

I make an adventure of ordinary things.

Create, imagine, reinvent, and get lost.

I do things that inspire me.

I defy the odds, raise my hand, sit at the table and lean in.

I refuse to give up.

I pursue my passion at all costs. I do things that terrify me.

My head dances among the stars, and my feet remain on mother earth.

I’m willing to ask the hard questions, to take chances, to love with my whole heart.

My mistakes and failures make me stronger.

I do not ascribe my worth to external validation, but to my character.

I surround myself with phenomenal people,

Especially ones who don’t always agree with me.

I choose authenticity over perfection.

I appreciate the small details that tend to go unnoticed by others.

My worth is innate and immeasurable. I try to remind myself of that, daily.

I exercise patience as often as possible,

Stay vulnerable even when I want to close my heart

And practice coexisting with things that make me uncomfortable.

I set boundaries, work to honor them,

And am willing to edit people out of my life who don’t.

I walk more than a mile in other people’s shoes,

And suspend judgment as long as humanly possible.

I remember to laugh more, stress less, forgive often, and inject love everywhere I can.

I do my best to relinquish every ounce of control because it’s futile.

I throw my hands up, close my eyes, and

Revel in life’s awesome and mysterious ride.

My ; emotions are fleeting, they do not define me.

My choices do, and I do my best to make good ones.

I feed my body good, whole foods,

But don’t punish myself for the occasional indulgence.

I move my body every day. I stretch, challenge, and honor her.

I rest when I need to.

I don’t accept every invitation that comes my way.

I practice saying “no.”

Show myself kindness, compassion, and unconditional love.

I am my best friend, I’m proud of me.

I share my life’s lessons with others, even the not so shiny ones.

I hold nothing back. Cry when I need to,

But also recognize when I need to buck up.

I remember to breathe and in that space, I find my calm among the chaos.

I owe it to myself to be remarkable, so I am.


BE UNPOPULAR

“Forget conventionalism; forget what the world will say, whether you are in your place or out of your place; think your best thoughts, speak your best words, do your best works, looking only to your OWN conscience for approval.”

—e.e. cummings

So you’re officially passion hungry, you’re learning to nourish yourself first, and kicking the bad habits and excuse making that prevent you from growing. But now that you’ve laid the groundwork for your internal growth, it’s time to take a tough look outside and take stock of how the people around you are helping or hurting your progress. Are they the wind beneath your wings or your ball and chain? And no matter who you’re surrounding yourself with in life, do you have the strength and the skills to dance to your own badass tune when the status quo just isn’t cutting it?

Whether we succumb to its pressures or not, popularity is something that we are all aware of at some point in our lives. Whether it was middle school, high school, college, or the pecking order among your coworkers, the “cool kids” have always existed, as have the wannabes. Everyone wants to be liked; that’s human nature. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to fit in and to have those around you admire and respect you. But all too often popularity trumps authenticity and we allow our “people pleasing” to come at the expense of our personal goals and values. Whether it’s to your friends, family, or colleagues, when you start looking outside yourself to make decisions, you’ve lost a sense of who you really are and what you stand for.

Unfortunately, there’s a culture out there right now that supports breaking each other down, that accepts backstabbing, gossiping, and bullying as the norm. There’s a hierarchy plaguing our school system in which the “cool girls” aren’t using their power to encourage and set a strong example, but to destroy and humiliate. After high school the popularity hierarchy doesn’t vanish, it just gets more sophisticated. Instead of hallway chatter, it’s gossipy emails at work and after-hours drinks discussing the latest he said, she said. The good news is that we aren’t born catty and mean, we are conditioned to be that way. We are taught to be threatened by one another’s success as opposed to being supportive and encouraging. Luckily because it is learned behavior, we can unlearn it and reprogram ourselves.

Recently, a girlfriend of mine was accidently copied on an email between two girl coworkers that were taking trash about her, “I can’t believe she got a raise! She’s such a kiss ass to the boss. It’s so annoying. Maybe one of these days she’ll realize that when we say we’re ‘busy’ for lunch, the reality is we just don’t want her to join;) ha ha.” Well, my friend is a class act and kept her composure even though she was deeply hurt. She hit “Reply All” and wrote, “I had no idea how annoying you thought I was, and it would have been a lot less painful if you were just honest with me about not wanting me to join you for lunch. I have to admit, this is one of the most hurtful things I’ve ever experienced, and sadly, I thought this kind of behavior stopped after seventh grade but it seems we don’t outgrown being mean to each other, it just gets more sophisticated through email.” When my friend got into her car after work she called me, humiliated and sobbing. At twenty-four-years old, this sting felt as powerful as it would have a decade earlier. When her cowardly colleagues realized what they had done, both girls were (obviously) mortified and apologized. We all know they would never have had the courage to say any of that to her face and now they were having to own it. But the wound inflicted by their reckless words left a huge heart scar and took serious time to heal. Not to mention, my friend was completely uninspired in her work environment and eventually changed jobs to not be around such catty, mean girls.

Likely, you’ve been on both sides of that story, and you know just how much meanness really does affect people. But even though gossiping with your girlfriends seems to bring you together, it actually tears us apart as a community of girls. The instant gratification that comes from getting a positive response to what you’re saying feels good, like it’s building camaraderie. But you know exactly what happens when your sharp words get back to the person you’re criticizing. It’s hurtful to them and makes you look like a jerk (a euphemism for what I really want to say). Gossip is a cheap way of getting attention, and there’s no excuse for any of us to do it or allow it around us. Don’t settle for a fractured, weak community of insecure and mean girls. I know it’s a difficult temptation, but I also know that we’re all better than that.

The way we relate to other people—to other girls especially—is hurting us. We have lost focus of who we are and what we stand for. We have bought into the ideas that we can’t trust each other and that there’s only one definition of beauty. Instead of relating to, sharing with, and supporting each other as community builders, we are knocking each other down. We need a shoulder to cry on when we are sad, encouragement when we are down, accountability when we stray, strength when we are weak, a calming voice when we are angry, and grounding when we’re too proud. Community is intrinsic to girls and yet “mean girls” have replaced sisters, and catty glances have replaced supportive smiles. We’ve reached a breaking point, and our future as women rides on our ability to stop allowing ourselves to be spoon-fed a belief system that hurts us.

Have the courage to be unpopular. Be the one to have the guts to disagree and the confidence to stand up against the mob of yes-girls and say “no.” I don’t buy it that girls are mean and backstabbing. Sure these girls exist, but once you begin to speak your mind and follow your heart, you’ll find that most people prefer honesty to deceit, integrity to spinelessness, blazing a new path to following the herd. This might not happen immediately, but even if you have to sit alone at lunch for a little while, in the long term it will feel immeasurably better to know you haven’t compromised your values for something as insubstantial and hollow as popularity.

Start now and start with your circle of friends. Do you support each other? Do you have a habit of cutting other women down? Are you hanging onto a toxic friendship that brings you more drama and pain than it does happiness? Begin bringing into your life a group of like-minded women who support you and your dreams no matter how different they are. I was lucky enough to start out with a friend just like that, and she made all the difference for me.

MAKING THE TOUGH DECISIONS

I can’t say I didn’t have a great high school experience, because I really did. I played sports, I did well academically, I had great friends, I got along with all my teachers and didn’t get into too much trouble. It also didn’t hurt that my older brother was one of the most popular senior guys in school when I was a freshman. But looking back, like any fourteen-year-old freshman girl, my confidence rode on the approval of others.

Growing up on the “other side of the tracks” in a wealthy school district, I wanted to blend in with the opulence that surrounded me. But starting with the hideous, jaundice-colored Malibu my mom drove to drop me off at school, I did not always succeed in flying under the radar. Unlike the rest of Pleasant-ville where everyone’s mom stayed at home and their dad made more than enough to support them, my parents were divorced and my mom worked two jobs. I remember being so embarrassed of where I lived that I’d do whatever I could to be dropped off anywhere but at my house.

“The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in a place no one has ever been.”

—ALBERT EINSTEIN

As for friends, I had a myriad, from the soccer and volleyball jocks to the smart kids in my honors classes, but I never really felt like I fit in. My dad says that you only need one person willing to witness your life, willing to stand up for you, to protect you, and breathe life into your dreams. Growing up, that person for me was Miss Frannie Scott. She was my best friend, the one willing to believe in me when even I wasn’t so sure.

I didn’t drink in high school, so when I went to parties I was always the girl without a red plastic cup in her hand. I was probably more aware of this than anyone else, but it made me feel self-conscious. It’s not that I was some Moral Molly. I didn’t drink because partying was a luxury I couldn’t afford. You see, most of my friends’ parents were wealthy enough to send their kids to any college they wanted. (In fact, some of them had a safety net the size of the Pacific Ocean under them.) For us Joneses it was a different story.

My parents are both huge proponents of education, but sending five kids to school was no cakewalk. At the time I was looking to go to college, I had two other siblings already attending universities as well. My parents were already strapped beyond measure, taking out loans and sometimes struggling to pay the bills. I witnessed the sacrifices that they made for me. I watched as my mom came home after a long day at the office to cook dinner, do laundry, make sure we did our homework, only to then get ready for her night job as a bartender that kept her up until the wee hours of the morning. I saw how stretched everyone was, and I knew how much college cost, especially when you have three kids paying out-of-state tuitions at the same time.

So for me the tough decision was staying true to my desire to go to a great school in California. All the times I wanted to skip school, stay out late, not study for the test, or be lazy and ignore my homework, I just couldn’t. I had my mind set on attending an expensive, out-of-state university, and I knew I wasn’t born financially wealthy so it rode on my shoulders whether or not I could get the grades to earn a scholarship. At a certain point in your life, you’ll have to realize the sacrifices necessary to make your dreams come true, and you’ll be at the crossroads of the same tough choices. Will you be dedicated to the path that gets you where you want to go, despite it being far more difficult, or will you sell out to an easy breezy path that takes you in the opposite direction of where you really want to go? We are faced with these kinds of choices every single day, and fortunately we get to decide which path we take.


BUT, WHAT DO I SAY? WHEN A FRIEND IS UNSUPPORTIVE.

As much as it can hurt to be left out of the “in” crowd or face up to a mean girl, it’s even harder to know how to react when a close friend is unsupportive. First, try not to take their words personally and just stomp off with your feelings hurt. As calmly as possible, ask why they said that or ask them to tell you more about why they feel that way. There may be something else going on. But that doesn’t mean that you should endure these outbursts regularly. Tell them how their words make you feel unsupported and ask them not to do it again. If they doesn’t stop, then you know it’s time to reevaluate your friendship.

Here’s how you might handle a situation like this:

Friend: I think it’s a bit ridiculous that you want to go to Harvard and spend your life as a doctor overseas. Harvard is one of the hardest schools in the country, and you’ve never so much as been outside of the city and now you want to move to a different state for college and practice medicine in a different country?!

You: Wow, that’s a pretty strong reaction. Why do you feel that way?

Friend: It just seems a little unrealistic to me, and as your friend I don’t want you to be disappointed if it doesn’t work out. (Which by the way, what they are really saying is that it seems unrealistic to them, not you! The power of projection!)

You: While I understand you not wanting me to be disappointed, I’d be exponentially more disappointed if I never tried. I know Harvard is tough, but why not me? I’ve worked my ass off for three years and it’s always been a dream of mine. Plus, maybe I haven’t seen the world, but that too is a passion of mine so I’m going to make it happen no matter what.

Friend: I guess it just all seems super out there.

You: Yeah, it does but that’s how I want to live my life, to go big or go home. And you not wanting me to be “disappointed” feels a whole lot like you just not being supportive. I know you love me and more than anything you’re just going to miss me and the reality is it’s super scary and I’ll miss you too. But here’s the deal, I have huge dreams and I have to chase them down and rather than prevent me from getting disappointed, I really just need a cheerleader in my corner. Can you be that for me?



At some point, for a number of reasons, I decided that I wanted to go to the University of Southern California, one of the most expensive private schools in the country. It was my dream school, and I proceeded to gush about it to my parents. In the middle of my sales pitch, my loving but realistic dad interrupted, and said, “Sweet girl, that sounds wonderful, but we just can’t afford that. I’m sorry.” And just like that my bubble didn’t just pop, it exploded. I was heartbroken, devastated, and did what any disappointed kid would do. I threw a temper tantrum, spitting out phrases like, “Not fair” and “How come?”

Later that night, my mom had one of the greatest parenting moments of my life. She said, “Punkin [her term of endearment for me], I don’t think you understand what your dad is trying to say. All he’s saying is we can’t make your dreams come true. He never said that you can’t. If you want it bad enough, then find a way to come up with the money, earn a scholarship, work harder than everyone else. Because what I refuse to do is sit here and allow you to blame someone else for your dreams not coming true. You’re going to let the first challenge you encounter stop you in your tracks? And for what, money? At least get creative with your excuses. If you really want it, then don’t just find a way, make a way. Your dreams are in your hands, so start acting like it.”

And in that moment, the challenge was set before me. If I really wanted it, then I had to earn it. So from that day forward school was so much more than just getting by and having fun. Like I said before, I made the tough decisions to not party because I simply couldn’t afford to be distracted, unprepared for class, to forget about a test and not do well. I had to give it 100 percent all the time and have my grades reflect that. I poured myself into my studies, did every bit of extra credit, and sat with teachers during office hours. Of course there were many days I would have rather hung out with my friends and put school on the back burner. I just knew that for me everything was riding on whether I did well. I had no plan B, no safety net.

One Thursday night all my girlfriends were going to see one of our favorite bands play, but I had a huge test the next day. It seemed that my friends were always so carefree, so spontaneous, so wonderfully reckless, and I wanted to be that too. But at the same time I also realized that I had a bigger goal in mind and whether I liked it or not, I had a different road to take. So of course I stayed home that night, and it was one of so many times that I was truly envious that other people didn’t have to care as much about their grades or work as hard as I did. And of course my friends gave me a hard time about being the “good girl.” I would laugh it off, but there was always a part of me that felt insecure about it and wanted desperately to not stand out.

“If I wasted my time trying to be like everyone else when I was 10 and 11, I wouldn’t be me today. So if you are going to be the future rock stars, the future somebody, whatever you want to be, then you’re wasting time trying to be someone else, because you’ll never get around to being you.”

—PINK

MISS FRANNIE SCOTT

Frannie was the only friend who never dogged me about my priorities, who didn’t laugh at me for the ridiculous amount of studying I did, or criticize me for going home early to prepare for class the next day. She supported me when I needed it the most, helped me grow confident in my choices, and encouraged me to stay on my chosen path when the peer pressure mounted.

We may not have been the most popular girls in school, but after finding each other, neither of us cared about it all that much. I’d be lying if I said I suddenly didn’t care at all what people thought about me, but Frannie helped me find me and be okay with myself. She gave me permission to just be, to define my unique voice and author my unique journey. The best part is that we were opposites in so many ways; her dream was to be a wife and mother (which she is now and is incredible at both!) and I wanted to run my own company and be the first female president. It didn’t matter what we wanted to do, because we agreed about who we chose to be—accepting, supporting and encouraging one another’s dreams, whatever they might be.

The situation I was in—not having my dreams fully financed—forced an issue into my life that I had to resolve then and there: how to take control of my own destiny. Though it was a frustrating lesson to learn, I feel lucky to have met this crossroads early because more than any other place, it is where I draw strength now. I proved to myself that I could set my sights on a lofty goal and achieve it.

I can still remember the day I received my acceptance letter to USC. With shaky hands, I opened it up and read the first line, “Alexis Jones, congratulations, you have been accepted to the University of Southern California and due to your excellent academic achievement, we would like to offer you a scholarship to attend.” The beautiful thing was in that moment, I had never so confidently stood on my own two feet, knowing that I earned the right to my dream school. Nobody had done that for me, and to this day, it is one of the most rewarding moments of my life.

Of course it was a moment that I shared with Frannie—after all, I owed much of my success to her support. No one else knew just how hard I had worked or the hours of sleep I had lost. So after celebrating with my family, my first frantic call was to her. All she said was, “It was worth it, Jones. You deserve it.” She made it seem like there was never any doubt I would achieve this goal (or any of my future goals), like she knew all along it was just a matter of time. Yes, I did the majority of the hard work, but it would not have been possible without my support system.

I hear a lot of people talking about their dreams, gushing about their latest goals and what they want in life. But rarely do I hear about the sacrifices that it takes to actually get where you want to go. I don’t care if it’s earning a scholarship to your dream school, getting the raise you want, completing the triathlon, or just deciding to eat well and get in better shape; every choice you make comes with consequences and sacrifices. And sometimes those sacrifices will make you stand out in a way that makes you uncomfortable and awkward, but they are always worth it.

What do you do when you’re at a crossroads, deciding between the popular route and one less traveled? First, take a hard look at what you want and what you have to do to make it happen. Be realistic with yourself. Are you still willing to sign up for it? I hope you are, because, like earning the right to attend USC, every time I set a tough goal for myself and achieve it, I feel invincible, invigorated, and ready to take on a newer, tougher challenge.

Second, hold on tightly to the friends and family who support you especially when you’re younger and figuring out who you really want to be. People like Frannie help us make sense of the world, they talk us off the ledge when we want to write yet another text to the guy we have a crush on (who’s totally not worth our time), they wipe our tears when the world is unfair, and they laugh with us over the silly stuff. Frannie and I get each other and we always will. We allow each other to mess up, forgive each other’s mistakes, and hold one another accountable to who we want to be, not who we want to justify being. I don’t know who your Frannie is, but you need one. We all do. We all need that person who tells you what you don’t necessarily want to hear, who admits when you’re being too dramatic, who’s your biggest cheerleader, and who reminds you of the things that really matter.

WHO IS THE WIND IN YOUR SAILS?

Over the years, I have witnessed the power of living with a strong support system. While we may hope that we are tough or independent enough to make our own opportunities, the truth is, the help of a strong support system can mean the difference between success and failure.

I may not have had the luxury of wealth or a trust fund safety net. But that was my life challenge. Yours may look very different. Maybe you were born into privilege but never had a supportive family or friends. Maybe your challenge was dyslexia, a mental illness, a physical handicap, an unforeseen tragedy, experiencing some form of abuse, addiction, an eating disorder, or losing someone close to you. We are all gifted with some kind of adversity. I call it a gift because without a challenge there is nothing to overcome, and only in that space can we grow and see what we are really made of.


KATE FATTER (Trip Leader for Backroads): I can recall making a decision that made absolutely no sense to anyone around me. When I was twenty-seven, I decided that working and living in Austin, Texas, didn’t quite satisfy my adventure spirit. I was surrounded with my wonderful family, fantastic friends, and endless entertainment. I had a good job and worked with amazing people. However, there was something missing. I still cannot put into words what I was missing, but I knew there was something I still wanted.

I applied for graduate school at the University of Boulder in Colorado while simultaneously applying for my absolute “dream job”—being a trip leader for an active travel company, Backroads. My GMAT scores were terrible and I was told that getting accepted to Backroads was about on par with getting accepted to Harvard. It wasn’t looking good, but I thought I would apply anyway and see what happened. Six essays and four interviews later I had applied to both. I had devised all sorts of plans and contingency plans, but I never planned what I would do if I was actually accepted to both. And I was!

I had one week to decide between Backroads and grad school. And everyone around me had their own opinions. I listened to lots of opinions and found myself being swayed one way for a couple of days and then right back to the other side for a couple of days. I had the choice that “made the most sense” to my friends and family and the choice that my heart was in. After several stressful, “What am I doing with my life?” moments, I decided to go with Backroads. It was a scary decision with more unknowns than I was comfortable with. But it made the most sense to me. Without saying so I knew everyone in my family was holding their breath until I realized I had made a mistake. Waiting for me to realize that this “dream” job was only short term and I would realize in a year that I needed to plant my feet firmly back on the ground and do the right thing.

So here I am. A year and a half later. Happy as I have ever been in my life. I have worked in Yellowstone, the Tetons, Vermont, the Canyons, Costa Rica, and soon Patagonia. I have met the most amazing people and have been able to travel to places I would have never seen had I chosen grad school. I am making a great living and learning more than I have ever learned in my life. I can honestly say that this job is the hardest job I have ever had, yet the most rewarding. I love my job!

My family now realizes that this was the best decision I could have ever made, even though it defied what they thought was the right choice. It was extremely hard for me to go against the grain and against what everyone I loved clearly wanted me to do, but it all worked out, as it always seems to.



Kate’s family wasn’t outwardly unsupportive, but she knew she was taking a leap that they didn’t understand. So she took the risk to follow her heart, and in the process of living her dream she has met people who understand her goals and share them. While it’s wonderful to have an unwavering support system, we’re only human, and not everyone in your life is going to “get” all of your choices. The important thing is that they stand by you instead of trying to dissuade you from pursuing your passion. Just don’t let even their unspoken doubts convince you to abandon what you really want. At the end of the day they just want you to be happy and so should you.

On the other hand, beware of the people in your life who voice their disapproval or seem to rain on every parade. Just like you are with your time and energy, you get to be selfish with who you surround yourself with because it is that crucial to your journey. The people in your inner circle influence you more than almost anything or anyone else, and so you must be conscious of whom you let in that precious space. You become what you tolerate, and most people in this world will respect you to the extent that you respect yourself and no more. It’s your job to teach people how to treat you.

You may not even realize that a relationship has become toxic, which is why it’s important to occasionally slow down and think about the people in your life. If you don’t like the way you handled a challenge or feel confused or conflicted about some advice you received, that’s your cue to pause for a minute and get back to your foundation. Focus on what you want, your long- and short-term goals, and your values. Then compare that to your advisors’ values and the kind of support they’re giving you. If there’s a mismatch, there might be a problem. Sometimes we forget that we pick our friends, and that it’s an honor, so start acting like it. Just like the president picks his cabinet of trusted advisors, surround yourself with people who edify, inspire, encourage, and challenge you.


TIME OUT! DO A FRIEND INVENTORY

Have you ever done an inventory of your friends? If not or if you haven’t done it in a while, do one now. Write down the five people you spend the most time with and then start writing out the attributes you admire in them. When you really sit down and think about it, do you feel like these people inspire you, encourage you, challenge you, and respect you? Do they make you better and want to dream even bigger or fly even higher? Sometimes we’re too nice when we should be a little more selective of the people we allow to influence us.

Also write down the things you want to improve in yourself, the places you need the most growth or guidance. Is there anyone out there who you think could mentor you or share their wisdom with you? Someone that could help bolster an insecurity or weakness? Maybe add them to your inner crew and schedule time to hang out with them. We are products of our surroundings so it’s in your best interest to really think about the people you spend the most time with.



A friend of mine once told me about the “sphere” philosophy. The concept is that there are several circles in your life starting with you. So imagine drawing the first circle around yourself with chalk. The second is drawn around the first; it’s a little bigger and it includes you and the people closest to you—your significant other maybe and your immediate family. The third tier surrounds that one and includes your best friends; the fourth tier includes your coworkers; the fifth, your acquaintances; and so on. Within these circles, you have the power to promote and demote people. Of course, the goal isn’t to have a certain number of people in each tier, but to be clear with yourself about who gets to influence your world, whose opinions matter most, and whose you can live without. Of course, just because someone is in a fourth or fifth tier doesn’t mean they don’t serve an important function in your life. Your pals on your co-ed kickball team or fellow yogis keep you active and laughing, but you don’t necessarily need to heed their career advice. There are friends you love to travel with, some you tell your most intimate secrets to, and others you work with. All of them serve a unique purpose in your life. Just know who gets intimate access to your heart and who to keep at arm’s length.

Below is the list of what I value most in my closest friends:


  1. Integrity—they have to be people of their word.

  2. Loyalty—they have my back no matter what.

  3. Honesty—when necessary, they can put me in my place and tell me not what I want to hear, but what I need to hear.

  4. My biggest fan—they are interested in my goals, large and small, and cheer me on even when the odds are stacked against me.

  5. Forgiveness—I have to trust that not if but when I mess up, they are willing to accept my mistakes and my apology.

  6. Humility—they have to recognize we’re all in this together and no one is more important than another and everyone deserves to be seen and heard.

  7. Passion—they are searching for or have found something they love and lead a life filled with purpose, inspiring me to do the same.

  8. Sense of humor—they don’t take life so seriously, and find humor even in dark times.

  9. Authentic confidence—they believe in themselves and have the courage to speak their truth, granting me permission to do the same.

10. Selflessness—they are willing to fight for things bigger than themselves.



Of course, if you create a list of things that really matter to you, you’d better make sure you embody them yourself. Creating a list of what you expect in others is a great way of tapping into what really matters to you and what kind of life you want to lead. Don’t be harder on your loved ones than you are on yourself. Hold everyone in your inner circle to a high standard, starting with you.

To start thinking about what kind of attributes you need in those around you, imagine what you’d write if you were posting a job description to fill the position of “your friend.” It may sound silly, but it’s a useful exercise. What would you want or need from the person you would hire?


BUT, WHAT DO I SAY? WHEN MY FRIENDS START TALKING TRASH, AND I WANT OUT!

One of my favorite quotes is by Eleanor Roosevelt; she said, “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” I’ve always taken it to heart so when my friends and I get together we try to talk about ideas, interesting new things we’ve learned, what’s going on in the world, and often how we can make it better. That being said, there are times when all of us find ourselves in a conversation that turns petty and devolves into gossipy chatter about the people in our lives, especially their perceived shortcomings and imperfections.

I recently ran into some old friends from my hometown who invited me out for a drink. Within minutes they were talking trash about the same girls they had issues with in high school, recounting the same silly stories only with newfound enthusiasm. After twenty minutes of not saying a word and letting the toxic conversation turn to superficial, mean chatter, I smiled, stood up, and said, “I’m sorry girls. It’s been great catching up. I just wanted to pit stop and say hi, but I actually gotta get going.” As much as I wanted to say how bored I was and scream, “Get over it already!!” I politely hit the eject button and evacuated the situation. The moment I stepped away, I felt like I could breathe again.

Now I’m not going to pretend that I never say mean things behind people’s backs, but I can say that I make a concerted effort not to. I do my best to surround myself with people in my life who, when I do start getting catty, lovingly remind me to knock it off. My mantra is you never know what he or she is going through, and if you’re really that upset, then bring it up to them directly, not about them to someone else. If not, then stop talking about it. Surrounding yourself with loving, kind, and compassionate people provides a powerful accountability, and their positive influence will make a huge difference in your life.



My friend Josie struggled with “fitting in” her whole life. Instead of picking friends who supported the person she was, she sought the approval of the people who seemed to be special, thinking she would become special in the process. She didn’t understand that she was enough, exactly as she was—until something profound happened that forced her to.


JOSIE LOREN (Actress and Activist): When I was in middle school, I desperately wanted to be a member of the “cool crowd.” They wore adidas sneakers, Nautica jackets, and had their own table in the cafeteria. Not officially, but it was understood. Naturally, I begged my mother to buy me these items, but she made me wear the school uniform even though it wasn’t mandatory. I could have died.

I couldn’t wear the same clothes, but I could change other things. Unlike myself, none of them were enrolled in the school’s academically “gifted” programs, so when the cutest boy in the clique started talking to me, my conversations turned from academics to video games, clothes, and movies. That’s what he liked, right? Unfortunately, I was never accepted into this group. That hurt. But what I remember even more poignantly was the feeling that came when I abandoned myself.

It’s sad to admit, but ever since I can remember, I have found myself chasing. I chase friendships, romance, careers. Now that I’m a little older and a tad bit wiser, I realize what I’m really chasing is status, confidence, and validation. It comes from a place of insecurity. I don’t think I am enough, so I fill the void with what I believe will make me whole in the eyes of others. Each person or thing I chase holds something that I have convinced myself I lack and they possess. If only I can be this person’s friend, my social life will twinkle with success and people will know I’m cool. If only this guy would date me, I’ll know I’m attractive, smart, worthy. It’s a debilitating way to think and live your life, and the consequences are steep.

When our self-worth resides in the eyes of others, we compromise who we are to accommodate their lifestyle. I was in a relationship for two years where I spent the majority of my time chasing his love and seal of approval. I changed every aspect of who I was to fit his model of the perfect woman. Everything from what I wore to what I ate and thought was tweaked to his liking. With every choice I made to accommodate him, I lost a little piece of me until I didn’t recognize who I was anymore. My bad habits got the best of me and finally drove me to hit rock bottom.

When I thought things couldn’t get worse, my father was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer the same day my grandmother, the heart of my family, suffered a massive stroke. Life knocked me down, and for the first time in my life, I couldn’t pick myself back up. There was no fight left in me. I was numb, empty. But a funny thing happens when you find yourself face down on the ground. You stop trying and you start “being.” Every layer of superficiality that I had carefully tailored was stripped away leaving me with the purest form of myself. I had no energy or desire to impress anyone or anything. The idea alone of chasing anything exhausted me. At the time I thought it was weakness, but I see now that it was truth. From that place of purest truth, I began to live my life for me and my loved ones instead of for others.

Life works in mysterious ways and in the face of tragedy, beauty began to bud all around me. I found that in making the choice to stop chasing, I weeded out the negative energy in my life. The people who didn’t accept me for who I was disappeared, and for the first time in my life, I was grateful. It left me with pure goodness. Suddenly, I was surrounded with honest, genuine people, who loved me for everything I am—the good, the bad, and the really bad. Connecting on a real level with people became my daily goal and my life became rich with poignant, powerful moments that were bursting with love. I realized life is a gift. It’s not a guarantee, and it’s too short to fill it up with superficial, empty moments that look dull and depressing on your life’s canvas. Make it beautiful. Make it bright. Make it count.

This year has brought trials and tribulations that I thought would never come my way. Life has been relentless. But if given the chance, I would not erase one tear, one scream, one hug, one fight, one moment. They have brought me to the place I find myself today—in a loving relationship with myself and the ones I hold dear to my heart. The only thing I ever want to chase is truth.



PROTECT YOUR REPUTATION

So we’ve established that going along with the status quo is an impulse to resist and that surrounding yourself with a stellar support system is crucial to blazing your own trail in this world. Got it? Good. But that doesn’t mean that you should be careless about what others think of you. You only have your good name once, and once it’s gone, it can be nearly impossible to get it back. Your reputation matters. You may not like that fact, but it’s true.

Reputation matters because it’s the very first impression people have before they ever get a chance to meet you, and it absolutely impacts the way they view you. You’re starting out in a good light and most likely they assume you can be trusted. It’s like being on the winning team; the mere fact that you win says something about every member, including you. Unfortunately, the flip side is also true. Being associated with less-than-trustworthy friends or a shady organization can put you at a disadvantage. When meeting new people you may first have to convince them that you can be trusted, that you’re not like the others.

Having the reputation that you’re the real deal makes you unimaginably influential because people believe in your abilities, they trust you to do what you say you’re going to, and are willing to support you along the way. A good reputation is more important than where you went to school, who your daddy is, and more important than your resume bullet points. It’s why you are hired above the other girl and why you’re given the raise. No matter if the task is large or small, take pride in what you do and do every job like your life depends on it. That’s because it does! We are judged (and judge others in return) constantly. So you have a choice whether your acquaintances, colleagues, and people you’ve never met swap stories about how terrific, loyal, and capable you are or say the exact opposite. You can either have an incredible PR team talking you up or a team of people showcasing a video montage of your lowlights.

Recently a young woman approached me who wanted to be involved in I AM THAT GIRL. The first few times I met her I thought she was lovely, sweet, and obviously passionate about working with girls. But a few weeks later I learned that her actions did not exactly match her ideology. She had posted pictures of herself on social media outlets in which she was wasted and half naked. And when I asked around about her, more than a few people dismissed her as being just a “drunk party girl.” It seemed that no one took her seriously and they certainly didn’t recommend her as a good candidate for I AM THAT GIRL.

The next time I met with her and she expressed how much she wanted to get involved in a leadership role at the organization, I was honest. I told her that I wasn’t sure if she knew, but that she had a terrible reputation in the eyes of many people who knew her. She was horrified and said that while many of her friends partied hard and were in the drug scene, she wasn’t like that, but people frequently assumed that she did too. I said that by the look of the pictures she was voluntarily posting for the world to see, I understood their assumptions. Though she may be smart, savvy, and confident, the online reputation she was creating was quite the opposite. I explained that I couldn’t afford to involve her in our organization because, even if it wasn’t true, she was giving the impression that her personal life conflicted drastically with our mission and our ideals. Not that we don’t have fun at IATG and let our hair down, but we take our job as role models seriously and can’t afford to have anyone who tweets pictures of themselves holding a tequila bottle, doing body shots with only bikini bottoms on. Authenticity is a cornerstone of our business, and one bad apple, one person who doesn’t practice what they preach, could spoil our good name.

This wasn’t easy news to deliver, and I know that it was difficult for her to hear. It was an eye-opening experience because she didn’t realize just how badly her reputation had been damaged by her actions. She certainly didn’t fathom the impact of social media, of creating a negative on-line reputation, and that it would keep her from a job she truly wanted and seemingly had a passion for. The interviewer at your dream job, a potential client, an admissions board, or a professor, no one, owes you the benefit of the doubt, and they may dismiss you without an explanation. It is your responsibility to safeguard your reputation because it is a powerful and fragile thing. Make your good name one of the attributes that helps you realize your dreams; don’t let losing it be yet another hurdle.


REMI NICOLE (Singer, Songwriter, Actress): As a teenager, I was always very strong minded and confident and had a lot of good friends, but once I was in my twenties, my career as a musician started to take off and a whole new group of people were introduced into my life. For a while it was infectiously fun and I really did have a great time. However, along with those new people came a lot of issues that I had to deal with, ones I hadn’t dealt with before. The main one was being around people with an astronomical level of insecurities. These people were the types many others look up to, and their outward bravado would explain why, but deep down they were riddled with insecurities that really affected their actions. They became bitter, jealous, unhealthily competitive, and generally unkind when their insecurities hit high levels. They made unwise choices that often made things worse. I found myself, through associating with them, entangled in webs of deceit, lies, drama blown out of proportion, and general disarray.

I started to feel uncomfortable, as their behavior brought out my own insecurities, and suddenly I started to question myself more than ever, which made me try to mould myself differently. As ridiculous as it sounds, there was even a part of me that enjoyed the darker moments. There seemed to be a romance in the melancholy. It seemed to be “cool” to be unhappy and as a musician I thought it helped. However, that was such an uncomfortable feeling that I knew it couldn’t be right. It took me until all of this passed, much later into my twenties, to realize that being yourself is all you can do in life. There is no other option. Every other option makes you feel uncomfortable in your own skin, confused, and empty, and that is no way to live. I realized if I couldn’t be myself around certain people, or if I felt the need to try and be someone different, or indulge in negativity to be “cool,” these were not the people I needed to surround myself with. They were not bad people, mostly, but they were not good for me and I was fortunate enough to realize that in good time.

Sometimes you have to make those choices and cut out the things in your life that don’t have a positive impact on you. I learned that when I was around people who were open, honest, and secure with themselves it really brought out the best in me and helped me to grow at lot more, secure in the knowledge that I was being myself at all times, which really was all I could be.

I have been lucky all my life with the friends I have acquired, the good and the bad as you can learn from everyone, but I strongly believe that to have good people around you and to keep them around you is one of the most important factors that will shape your life for the better.



Unfortunately, it can be easy to get sucked into a world or a group of friends that is not good for you. Sometimes, as with my prospective intern and Remi, you don’t even realize how you’ve changed or the negative effects your friends are having on you. Be sure you’re checking in with yourself regularly, listen and look for signs that something isn’t working, and if you discover that you need to make a change in your life, don’t be afraid to do it. You’ll be glad you did.

A MORE SUPPORTIVE CULTURE STARTS WITH YOU

I believe in a world where girls empower girls, a world in where we are each other’s biggest supporters and our greatest cheerleader, a world where we are taught to celebrate one another’s gifts, not to be threatened by them. I believe in a world in which girls use their energy to solve the world’s problems and inspire others to do the same, where girls recognize their limitless potential and remind each other who they are and what they are meant to do in this world.

Do you believe a world like this can exist? It can if you begin to create it. Start where you are and build a world for yourself that is full of supportive people who share your dreams. I dare you to have the courage not be popular, not to make striving to fit in your top priority. I dare you to choose weird over normal, to hip hop dance to the rhythm inside your soul, and, when necessary, fight for something that doesn’t make sense to anyone but you.

We are all perfectly flawed human beings, works in progress. Grant each other permission to be who you are. Be gentle with yourself and with the people around you. Protect your reputation and refuse to compromise your values. Listen to the advice of your closest circle of advisors, but not if that takes you down a path your heart knows is the wrong one. And above all, trust yourself enough to follow your own lead and go where your heart wants to take you. You may not change the whole world right away, but I promise you’ll make the community of you a much brighter place.


BE OF SERVICE

“We’re not on our journey to save the world but to save ourselves. But in doing that you save the world. The influence of a vital person vitalizes.”

—Joseph Campbell

To be “that girl” means being the best version of you, perfectly and wonderfully flawed. Too often we look outside ourselves and think “that girl” has it all, but we don’t realize that what we admire in her already exists in us if we were just willing to recognize and exercise it. I’ve been asked in multiple interviews what my definition of beauty is, and I can sum it up in two words: authentic confidence. There is nothing in this world that is more beauty-full than a human being who knows her worth and is comfortable in her own skin. Authentic confidence is when you know who you are and what you stand for. You’re unshakable, a force to be reckoned with, and no one can take that away from you.

Plenty of women paint on a façade of perfection and pretend to have it all figured out while in truth they face the same doubt and uncertainty as the rest of us. I know there have been times when I tried hard to live up to the unrealistic, unattainable guidelines for that image of perfection and that no one knew the real me—even I didn’t know her. I was so busy being everything to everyone else that I never got around to just being me. The truly beautiful shine so brightly that it’s hard to keep your eyes off them, and it has absolutely nothing to do with what they look like. Their eyes conceal nothing, their confidence seeps out of their pores, their beauty radiates from their smile, and their charisma rolls off the waves of their laughter. We all know people like that, who embody such a bold, powerful presence that you can’t help but be magnetized to them.

To be “that girl” means that you’re allowed to make mistakes, change your mind, start anew, and reinvent yourself. “That girl” is in all of us. It is the pearl that we sometimes forget or misplace, but never lose. Most of us have to go looking for her, dust her off, and shine her up a bit, but she’s always and forever the most beautiful part of us. She is timeless, not affected by gravity, wrinkles, or gray hair.

To be “that girl” just means you’re going to give life your best shot, that you’re not going to make excuses or justifications, that you’re going to go for it, whatever that means for you. It also means you’re going to be an example of true beauty in the world and encourage the same for all the other women in your life. Being “that girl” means you are a constant work in progress—you’re willing to be vulnerable, flawed, and compassionate and are someone who stumbles and falls but isn’t afraid to admit her shortcomings in the midst of her magnificence.


YAEL COHEN (Founder, F Cancer): When my mom got diagnosed, I was shattered. I will never forget the small room we sat in, with my mom’s scans plastered on the wall, where we heard for the first time that she had cancer. In that moment I broke.

I quickly pieced myself back together because there was work to be done, and I had to save my mom’s life. Or so I thought. Which now seems utterly ridiculous, but at the time it was an honest reaction to a situation I just didn’t know how to handle.

For weeks I was a headless chicken making arrangements for the upcoming surgery. But at night, when no one was around to distract me and there were no more arrangements to be made for the day, that’s when I fell apart. I didn’t feel like I could really open up to any friends about what I was going through, so I never cried in front of friends or family. That is not to say I didn’t cry. I cried a lot—alone. The one person I share everything with is my big brother Ryan, and this was no exception. Poor him. At the time, Ryan lived in London and there was an 8-hour time difference. I would call him at all hours, crying hysterically. Sometimes there were no words, just sobs. Ryan was the only person who ever heard me cry throughout the cancer. I think the only reason I was able to hold it together was because I could fall apart late at night and Ryan would piece me back together over the phone. Thank you, big brother.

I tell everyone that it is natural to experience fear, sorrow, anger, and grief—among other emotions— typically considered “negative” in today’s culture when you are going through something this traumatic. It’s essential to our mental health to be allowed to scream, cry, and shout, “This sucks!” Because it does suck; that’s the reality. I was unable to follow my own advice though, and I didn’t want to cry or show my deep sadness because I thought I had to be strong for my mom. I thought, “Who am I to cry? I have to be her rock.” I was wrong. I needed to cry and maybe my mom needed to see me cry.

One of the most important things I’ve learned over the crazy journey that has been the last four years is to be honest—with yourself—and ask for the help you need. It is so easy to convince ourselves that we’re okay, that we’re fine with something that isn’t good enough, or that we can handle it alone. Whether it’s how much you’re struggling with a situation, a friend who isn’t a real friend, a man who doesn’t deserve you, or a situation that makes you uneasy, we have to first be honest with ourselves before we can be honest with anyone else.

I had trouble admitting how much I was hurting when my mom got sick. I thought that, because I wasn’t the patient, I didn’t get to feel that way—I had to be strong. Learning to be vulnerable was really the strongest thing I could do. It helped me not only heal, but to build a movement that has helped hundreds of thousands of people on some of the worst days of their lives.



As I’ve said time and again throughout the book, your journey to your most beauty-full self starts by listening and understanding what it is you want for your life, whether it’s for next week, next month, or next year. And remember to call on your team of supporters—even if it is a team of one—to help you sort out your thoughts and feelings. Listen to their stories, consider their advice, and regardless if it’s not right for you, it will give you more clues about what is. People have a way of guiding us in the most unexpected ways and when wisdom is called upon, it always shows up. It may not be what you were hoping for, or arrive in the way in which you thought she would, but she’ll find her way to you. She will tell your heart exactly what it needs to know and guide your feet in the right direction if you let her.

My mom has always been the first person I go to when I’m feeling off track or less than sparkly. Maybe because her compassion, resilience, self-authored constitution, and childlike enthusiasm for life inspire me daily. Or maybe it’s because, in spite of her life’s circumstances—not coming from wealth, experiencing abuse, getting married and pregnant at sixteen, raising five children as a single mom and defying all odds—she’s a warrior in civilian clothes and someone I will forever look up to. Either way, I can’t discuss “that girl” and not mention the woman who inspired it all. The irony, of course, is that when I asked her to write something for this book, she gaffed and said, “I can’t imagine I have anything important to share.” I beg to differ, Mom. I want to share some of her wisdom that has helped me so much over the years. Here are my mom’s precious and wise thoughts about what is most important in life.


CLAUDIA MANN (My Mom, My Hero): I was married and pregnant when I was sixteen. My husband went off to college across the country while I lived with my parents, finished two years of high school in one, and had our child. I then followed him to school and worked, kept up the household, and cared for our child while he attended college. Four years later we were divorced; he had four years of college under his belt and I still had my secretarial job, making barely enough to pay for day care, an apartment, food, and my car. I got my college degree at forty-three years of age.

I learned a lot in those first four years. First and foremost, don’t get married or pregnant while you are still a child yourself. Grow up, finish school, and should you be married in college, even if it takes a little longer to finish, make sure you both leave with your degree.

Always be honest with yourself and others. Earning back trust is much harder than maintaining that trust with truth.

Always be on time. Everyone’s time is as valuable as yours. When an opportunity arises for an advancement, or job recommendation, people remember that you were the one always on time and that you were dependable. Your name will go to the top of the list.

Learn when to say no and mean it. Be true to yourself. My father once said if you ask advice from five different people you will get five different responses. Figure out what you want yourself. You cannot please everyone and will be lucky if you can please yourself most of the time. Trust yourself.

Look people in the eye when you talk with them and listen to them. Listen carefully. A good listener is much more valuable than a good talker. Be a good friend and you will find that in turn you have good friends. I have found that my true friend is that one I can call when my car is broken down in Tennessee and the only question he asks is where I am, and gets on the road and heads in my direction all the way from Texas.

Remember that you are human. You will make mistakes. Do not let them define you.

Our journey through this life is like a river. It is a constant flow, sometimes going faster, sometimes slower, and sometimes getting stuck in the eddies going round and round. You have to view life in its whole. You cannot pick out a single mistake, or accomplishment, and say, “That is what/who I am.”

Don’t waste time on regrets. They are backward looking and based on situations you cannot change. Learn from your experiences and move on.

Take time for your family and friends. Work hard and be the best at whatever it is that you do. If you work at a hamburger stand, make the best hamburger in the world and when you hand it to that customer, make them feel as if you waited all day just for them to come by.

Love, love, love. Love yourself, love your family and friends, love life and the many blessings it bestows upon you. Be thankful each and every day. Be kind and forgiving. Let things go. Holding on tightly to things doesn’t open the opportunity to what may come your way in the future.



THE WRONG KIND OF BEAUTY

My mom doesn’t try to conform to anyone else’s image of perfection and that’s maybe the greatest lesson I ever learned from her. Despite all the highlights and all the blunders along her journey, all the excuses she could have made to not succeed, or the temptation to quit, using the justification that she wasn’t dealt the best hand, she refused to give up. She never allowed her failures or her successes to define her, she didn’t allow others to define her, she stood tall, worked hard, and reminded all of us that beauty is a verb and not an adjective. She reminds us that being human, being real, is far more awesome than an artificial façade of plastic perfection. She reminds us that happiness, confidence, and joy will never be found externally, but authentic joy and self-worth will only ever be found within. Her message is one that we are all starving for because, if you haven’t noticed, we’re not doing very well right now.

Everywhere I look I see campaigns for wafer-thin models, another starlet heading back to rehab, and entertainment news celebrating opulence, wealth, fame, and a singular image of beauty as though it’s our life’s mission. I read the statistics of rampant eating disorders and bullying starting as young as elementary school. I watch my friends settle for people who blatantly disrespect them because they’d rather be in a relationship with someone (anyone) than be alone. I’m surrounded by girls who barely eat, or when they do they feel so guilty that the distracting thoughts prevent them from living a powerful life. I see consumption everywhere and temptation behind every corner for bigger and better.

I don’t see a society filled with substance. I don’t see a society full of integrity and contentment. I don’t see a culture celebrating girls for what makes us truly beautiful, one that highlights our character, but rather, I see one that breaks us down for our physical “imperfections.” I witness a sea of daily distractions that hold us down like shackles to our feet when we should be flying. Our narrow definition of beauty requires girls to pluck, dye, brush, shave, cut, bleach, wax, diet, shop, and endlessly compare; all of which leave very little time for us to really shine. What we haven’t noticed is that we are forced into a lifelong beauty contest that we will never win, and didn’t ask to enter in the first place.

I’m tired of it. And trust me, I’m not now and have never been above the lure of this competition. I too need to be reminded that my self-worth is not equal to whether or not I have a good hair day, or if I’ve been meticulously working out and looking thin. I have to work hard to remember that whether I’m five pounds heavier or my face is broken out that I am gorgeous because of who I am, not what I look like. The shell of my body houses the most precious thing, and like clams our real treasure is the pearly heart inside.

It’s hard in today’s society to ignore all the unrealistic expectations because they’re everywhere you turn and everything from the ads on the street to conversations with our friends and family all reinforce it every day. We’re fighting a battle to recognize daily our innate self-worth instead of allowing our confidence to reside in the approval of others, in our handbags, our job titles, our significant others, or our accomplishments.

For a long time I put pressure on myself to figure out this dilemma. I wanted to be able to identify the “problem” we all struggled with. Why don’t we ever feel good enough or pretty enough? But I quickly realized it isn’t about finding a “cure” for the epidemic of insecurity plaguing us today or a formula that will offer girls endless amounts of confidence. All I needed to do was start the conversation.

“You suppose you are the trouble but you are the cure. You suppose that you are the lock on the door but you are the key that opens it. It’s too bad that you want to be someone else. You don’t see your own face, your own beauty. Yet, no face is more beautiful than yours.”

—RUMI

So I put up my white flag and waved it around violently for all to see. I quit. I gave up. I dropped out of the race to attain the image of perfection and asked myself,” Who signed me up in the first place?” Not me. I don’t think any of us voluntarily sign up for it, but we somehow find ourselves sprinting along with every other girl we know, headed somewhere without knowing why or where. The crazy thing is, once I was honest with people in my life and stopped trying to pretend that I had it all figured out, they were free to do the same.

It was like we could all take a deep breath and say, “Okay, this is exhausting pretending to be something that we’re not, pretending to have it all together.” Then we were free to talk about things that really mattered. We were no longer competing in a stupid race we didn’t want to run in the first place. Suddenly we were comrades, supportive sisters, and able to collaborate instead of compete. We were able to talk about all the things we wanted to do in the world, no longer threatened by one another. I shared my passions, my goals, and my ambitions and in turn so did they. And I realized just how small my conversations had been, how unoriginal they had become, until I threw in my towel and decided that I was going to play a different game. I was going to play the game of changing the world and finding other women who wanted to join that race.

I AM THAT GIRL hosted an event at the White House with a slew of influential women. With the number of gorgeous, confident, successful alpha females in the room I admit that I expected hints of cattiness or arrogance here and there. However, it was shockingly the opposite of what the stereotype would suggest.

Like an old Western standoff, the first few minutes were painfully silent. Then, one by one each woman set down the cumbersome façade of perfection, the heavy armor, and the Wonder Woman cape that we wear for the rest of the world. And that’s when the magic occurred and the authenticity glittered on our faces as we began to candidly share our life’s most personal battles—the good, the bad, the glamorous, and the downright ugly. Egos evaporated, pride melted, and we were left with our most beautiful characteristic, compassion.

Suddenly the Hollywood starlets, the powerhouse producers, and thought leaders of our generation found common ground that defied professional titles and couture nametags. Suddenly we were so much more than our impressive resumes; we were transformed into a group of girls patiently listening to each other’s unique life stories, which were all dappled with the inevitable struggles and triumphs, love stories and heartbreaks, highlights and gaffs. I was left inspired by a group of women committed to collaborating instead of competing, and because of that dedication each of us walked out of the White House a better version of ourselves; picked up, dusted off, and ready to get back out on the battlefield.

So to hell with the stereotype of catty girls threatened by and lashing out at each other. While it may still be the reality for many, I believe that girls are ready for a new relationship with one another in which we support and encourage each other, where we challenge and inspire each other and stand in one another’s corner instead of staring down our opponent in the middle of the ring. When girls choose to come together and join forces, the possibilities are endless, and yet conversely, if we continue to compete in an unproductive way the cancerous resentment will siphon out our fuel tanks and leave each of us stranded on the side of the road, going nowhere.

I know it is possible, girls empowering girls. I’ve seen it and it’s breathtaking, magnifying every phenomenally powerful characteristic unique to us. I believe in a world in which girls feel worthy, where we have the audacity to dream big and have access to the tools and support to make those dreams a reality. I believe in a world where glass ceilings are shattered, where stereotypes are put to rest, where catty glances are exchanged for supportive smiles, and where girls are reminded everywhere that we are, in fact, on the same team. I believe in a world where compassion surpasses ego, a world where girls boldly challenge each other and use one another as resources instead of a means to an end.

I believe that in a single generation we can drastically change the future for girls, and that our daughters and granddaughters will have no concept of a time when we were anything other than each other’s biggest fans. I believe that if you empower girls, you change the world. I dare you to dream that with me.

THE ENEMY IS US

The scariest, most terrifying aspect of the war we are in right now is that it is with ourselves, and it’s difficult to defeat your enemy when you stare them in the face each morning in the bathroom mirror. We have been taught to be so self-critical, judgmental, and doubtful of everything we do and say. We are prisoners of our own minds, limited only by the extent of our own thoughts and looking everywhere but inside for permission and approval. It’s easy to vilify the entertainment industry and media for its limited portrayals and objectification of women, we can point fingers in every direction, but I know if I’m being honest with myself, the harshest criticism I have ever heard comes from the tiny voice inside my own head, convincing me I’m not enough, I’ll fail, or worse scaring me out of ever trying.

At the end of the day, we are the only ones responsible for our actions, and we need to stop looking outside ourselves for the change. Obviously there are massive influences on us, pressures and expectations, but to be a victim to them is our choice. Your greatest challenge lies in the depths of your own self-doubt, the you that binges on half a chocolate cake and then convinces you of the lie that you have no willpower, using the excuse you “couldn’t” stop yourself. The real challenge is the you who lacks integrity and says you’re going to do something and then doesn’t hold yourself accountable. Your greatest bully is the you who looks in the mirror and immediately tallies up your so-called physical flaws and begins the destructive commentary, “I wish my nose were a little more like this, my stomach a little more like that, my boobs a little bigger, my thighs a little smaller.” The least attractive version of you is the one that gossips about other girls instead of encouraging them and uses words like can’t and impossible. At the end of the day, we have to realize that more often than not, the real enemy is the voice inside our head telling us we don’t matter, we’re not enough, and we’ll never measure up; it’s that voice that we must learn to silence.

“You, who make angels stutter and mystics moan—congratulations for being here so well. It’s not an easy gig, this thing called life. In fact, it’s quite the ass-kicking experience. But oh, how you’re living brilliantly anyway. Even when you think you’ve failed, the Universe stands in awe of you. Even when you forget who you are, blades of grass long to rub up against you. Even when you hide your gifts, the air aches to breathe you. In. Thank you for existing so perfectly.”

—SERA BEAK

Defeating this enemy starts within each of us because if we cannot become the master of our own ships, the creator of our own thoughts, then we are but talking parrots repeating others’ ideas and beliefs. Yes, our paradigm is greatly influenced by our culture, but I won’t settle for being another comatose Barbie, to sit passively and allow this to go on any longer. We all just need new programming, a software update.


JESS WEINER (Author and Social Messaging Strategist): I’ve written a lot about my childhood and the requisite pain, excitement, and awe that come with those inevitable transitions when your girlhood dreams become adulthood realities.

Whether it was my beautiful transformation from a depressed, doubting, and diet-obsessed teenager into a sensitive, self-loving, and semi-sane adult, one thing remains abundantly clear, as I traveled through my twenties, and now round out my thirties, life totally gives you what you need—not always what you want.

What I thought I wanted in my twenties was attention. Attention meant approval. Approval meant love. And love meant I was worthy. I sought this attention by following every trend and fad, morphing myself to please others, and dare I admit, jumping into a few heart-wrenching love affairs. But at the end of the day, the attention never satisfied the deep hole within; I was looking for an approval I would eventually learn could never come from a compliment, a raise, or even a marriage proposal.

Into my thirties I felt I could hold my head higher, having weathered some storms, earning some stripes, and living through crushing disappointments. Now, my focus would be on balance. But on the way to seeking balance, I learned just how out of balance my life had become.

As an entrepreneur, I had made my career the primary focus of my life and now had to consider whether I had replaced seeking attention with “being busy.” Girls and women get so much validation by their busyness. And I seemed to be in the running for a gold medal in this Olympic sport of overcompensation.

I loved my career. I have achieved incredible success that makes me truly proud. But something was missing. Had I bypassed the balance in order to serve my ambition? And did being busy actually make me feel more loved? Would I even have enough room in my life to let real love in when it called? True love. Not the kind of love you find in a sappy movie. The kind of love that forces you to dig deep, grow up, and actually create a balance between your work and play.

But before I could make that space for someone else, I needed to make it for myself. Because no matter who I ended up in a relationship with, I was always going to need to be my own first true love.

The first step to falling into loving balance with yourself is to order a cease-fire in the war you are waging with your childhood fears. The ones that keep you tethered to the past. The ones that still supply a heavy dose of shame around your worth. The ones that keep you mired in labels from long ago. If you want to skip down the path toward authenticity, then you must discover how to really be yourself.

Be bold enough to dream your own visions, to speak your own dreams, and to fortify your own confidence with a profound inner love. An inner love that isn’t reliant upon attention or a jam-packed schedule, but one that comes from living a life filled with glorious honesty, rigorous self-examination, and gentle forgiveness.

This isn’t easy. And you may not get to cross it off your to-do list tomorrow. But it’s a relationship worth creating. And the good news is you can start on this relationship journey right now. Just like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, there really is no place like home. And there is no one just like you. Your true home is a balanced body, a searching mind, an authentic spirit, and a beautiful relationship with yourself.

When we can focus on becoming more of who we are, we may end up discovering that we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. And we are so worth the wait.



So stop blaming others for the obstacles in your life or beating yourself up for not living up to some ridiculous ideal. Be good to yourself, listen carefully, and pay attention to who you are. Yes, as Jess’s story shows, it may take time and experience to develop your confidence and understanding of yourself. But why not try learning the lesson of self-love now? It’s never too early or too late to come out of the trenches of a war you’re waging on yourself. Be the first person and the last person every day who supports you and loves you for who you are. After all, why should anyone else do it if you don’t?

FIGHT FOR SOMETHING BIGGER THAN YOU

It is a luxury to worry about whether you look fat in those pants, if you’re sporting the latest trends, or how to get your latest crush to notice you. I had never thought about this until I worked in Cambodia, dealing with girls who had nothing. I watched young girls fighting for their lives, at eight years old working twelve- to fourteen-hour days trying to help feed their families. I had never been so humbled in my life. I realized I had six different kinds of lotions for different body parts, more than thirty pairs of shoes, and enough clothes to wear a different outfit every day for a year. Not to mention a roof over my head, food to fill my belly, and a family who loves me and protects me.

These girls had none of that and yet one of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned was from a beautiful five-year-old girl named Srey No. She taught me the art of appreciation. In the United States, we are so used to having so much, but the consequence of that consumer-driven mentality is our inability to appreciate it. We are taught that behind every corner there is something bigger and better. I remember the first time I bought Srey No a two-cent balloon. She had never seen one before and as I held her little body in my arms, and her right hand clung to that tiny string, her eyes lit up as she gazed at the floating magic ball. It was as if I were experiencing the phenomenon of balloons all over again, only through her eyes. This silly thing only cost two cents, but I realized that more than the actual balloon, she was enjoying feeling loved and was grateful to be in my arms. The balloon was the icing on the cake.

When I was in Cambodia working with these girls, I didn’t stress over what outfit I was going to wear or if I’d eaten too many carbs that day, and I never once glanced in the mirror longer than the time it took me to brush my teeth. My worth to these girls had far less to do with my looks and so much more to do with my heart and how I was able to make them feel valued. I was consumed with something far greater than just trying to impress people, I was consumed with loving these girls, with teaching them basic hygiene, and encouraging them to read and write. My life was about something so much greater than just Alexis Whitney Jones.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

—ANNE FRANK

Over the years, I’ve found that the easiest way to feel better about myself is to concern myself with someone or something bigger than me. When I step outside of my ego, my pride, and my desire to impress others, I find true contentment and the authentic confidence that makes me shine. When I chose to live an others-centered life as opposed to an ego-centered life, I began to feel the most fulfilled. That is not to say that my ego doesn’t trip me up or that my pride doesn’t stand in the way at times, but I certainly do my best each day to be thoughtful about others.

That life-altering experience in Cambodia shook me out of the trance I was in. I had bought into the glamorous stories of Hollywood’s starlets and I believed that if my body was the right size, my shoes were the right colors, and my purse was the right brand then I too would belong in the world of glitz and glam. At one point, I thought I had it all and yet I still felt painfully lonely and insecure. After trips like Cambodia, I suddenly realized that all the fame, riches, and influence in the world could not make me feel complete or fulfilled the way I did when I was there. When we are myopically focused on ourselves, and I don’t mean making yourself “first,” I mean when you create a world where you are the “only sun in your universe,” we board a direct flight to self-destruction. You need more than a single bottom line to measure whether you are successful or not, more than the right husband, perfect children, your dream job, or the perfect body. When we discover our unique passion and fight for it tooth and nail, when we are pursuing our purpose, pouring out our heart and serving others above just ourselves, we find the ingredients of real joy and wholeness.


BRITT DEBEIKES (Daughter, Sister, Advocate for Dreamers): I had caught him red-handed with another woman. The man who I loved and imagined building a future with broke my heart and shattered me in an instant.

I drove, first, to my parents’ house and fell apart in my father’s arms. He lifted me from the front seat of my car and carried me into the house where he and my mother spent the next two hours doing their best to calm my hysterical tears. Then, it was time for me to go home to my apartment and put myself to bed accepting that I would have to actually wake up tomorrow and start a new day.

As I pulled onto my street, my phone buzzed with two new text messages. Surely, my friends did not yet know of the terrible encounter and ensuing heartbreak that had occurred just hours earlier that evening. I reached for my phone and read, through the tears streaming down my face, a message from one of my best friends from college. She was newly engaged. The next message was from her new fiancé requesting my presence at a surprise engagement party he was throwing her the following night. Feeling empty and broken it was all I could do not to crawl into bed and simply turn off the phone.

That was just the beginning of the best year of my life.

My brother held back tears as he placed his arm around my shoulders and escorted me into the engagement party the next night. In the weeks that followed I was the recipient of an outpouring of love unlike anything else I had ever experienced in life. The number of people that came to my side, and the vastness of their love and loyalty, was mind blowing. I made a decision just weeks after that fateful night that I would dedicate the next six months to serving others and paying forward all of the selfless love that I had been so fortunate to receive.

My first order of business was to buy plane tickets to visit close friends all over the country because I had experienced, firsthand, the depth of emotional support that comes from physical human contact. It is the kind of connection that can simply not be replaced by an email or text message.

One of my longtime childhood friends had been living in Colorado for nearly ten years and in that time I had hopped on a plane only once to go see her. I had recently learned that her parents were in the midst of a terrible divorce, full of drama ripe for the hometown gossip chain. She kept it all close to the vest, rarely opening up to even her closest of friends, in hopes of keeping her family name off of the lips of the local women often found enjoying their Chardonnay lunches while talking about the lives of others.

I flew out to see her and spent a weekend indulging in all things fun and girly. We stayed up late drinking wine and listening to music, didn’t take off our pajamas until noon while glued to a Bachelor Pad marathon, and spent the rest of the afternoon hiking with her dog through the Colorado mountain trails. On the last day we had a long lunch and she opened up to me about the struggle and pain associated with all the change that was slowly materializing within her family. I felt honored to have the opportunity to open up my ears and offer words of encouragement. She was carrying a heavy load on her shoulders, and I was anxious to try and share some of the weight.

There were countless other friends who I was determined to show my love and perhaps try and share in carrying some of the emotional weight burdening them as a result of changes or challenges in their lives. I wrote letters, sent cupcakes, and made homemade gifts of personal stationery with a note to encourage them to always be in touch with those whom they loved.

A particularly fond memory occurred one evening when I had the opportunity to present a book of letters to a dear friend who was a new mother. Close family and friends had written the letters to her son before he was born, and they expressed wishes of hopes and dreams for his life. We exchanged a tearful embrace before I was able to alleviate her of parenting duties for just a couple of hours so that she and her husband might enjoy a date night for the first time in weeks.

My relationships were developing in strength and complexity—the efforts of serving others were materializing into whole new chapters of existing friendships. With each passing month I could feel myself coming more alive.

My intention isn’t to encourage you to serve others in order to achieve greater personal happiness. Rather, I hope to simply share with you the personal enlightenment that I experienced in shifting my mind-set from looking inward to looking outward. And then consider this a call to action.



Whether you help people in a far-off land or, like Britt, connect with and be there for your loved ones at home, seek out a way to give of yourself, not just to yourself. Particularly when you are feeling down, stuck, or directionless, sometimes the best way to awaken your spirit and your hope is to get out of your own head, your own routine, and fight for, give to, or focus on something meaningful outside yourself.

MY FINAL MESSAGE

I was told once that the two most important questions we will ever be asked are “Who did you love and who did you serve?” The idea is that the only things that really matter in life are the people you are surrounded by and the constitution you choose to follow. Are you surrounding yourself with negative influences or compassionate, creative, kind, challenging, humble, and socially conscious individuals? Are you self-serving, pursuing money, prestige, success, and external validation, or are you seeking to serve others, contribute instead of merely consume, pursue your passion and purpose instead of flying on autopilot?

Who will you choose to be in this lifetime? I want you to have the courage to answer that, to know and love yourself unconditionally, to believe in your own dreams and surpass your potential. I want you to have the life you dream of because you’re willing to fight for it. I want you to find your happy or (as one of my dear friends, Seth Matlins, says) to “feel more better.” I don’t expect you to avoid life’s messy, complicated, and scary storms, but rather in the midst of them have the confidence that your little boat will never sink. Waterlogged? Tossed around? Capsized even? Of course, but never sink. I just want you to feel comfortable and confident in your skin, to author your life according to your expectations, and delete the word impossible from your vocabulary.

I want you to remember above all else that on this crazy journey, you’re not alone. There are so many of us, an entire generation and generations before and after, who’ve struggled and will struggle with the exact things you are right now. Our lives are not just about how we can change the world and leave our imprint on history, but more so about who we will choose to be on a daily basis throughout our adventure. Our lives are far simpler and far more complex than we’ll ever know, and yet as I’m learning the whole point is that every day we wake up we get another shot. Yesterday has no impact on today and today has no indication of what tomorrow will look like. Because it’s true what they say, we are not entitled to this lifetime, so learning to embrace the preciousness of it, of our relationships and of our experiences in the moment, is all we can ask of ourselves. I strongly believe that to live well is to simply appreciate what we have, when we have it.

This journey is a roller coaster of highs and lows and everything in between. We are meant to experience the magnificence, the disappointment, the inspiration, and the challenges in order to taste each flavor on the entire buffet line. Some things we won’t necessarily like, but others we will marvel at their deliciousness. Regardless, we won’t know until we try each and every one, so don’t shy away from people, experiences, opportunities, success, or potential failures, heartbreaks, and disappointments. Through it all, the lessons we accrue, the shades of paint we collect on our palette, and the variety of foods we gather on our plate make our world more brilliant, more interesting, more diverse, and more scrumptious. Salty, sweet, bitter, spicy, and bland; we need them all. We want them all, for choice is the heartbeat of life.

And while I’m the greatest “dream advocate” out there, the greatest challenge is being your own dream advocate because you really can do whatever you want in this lifetime, and don’t roll your eyes at me like I’m your mom telling you that your lame third grade finger painting should be hanging in museums everywhere. I mean it. If you are willing to sacrifice, work hard, maintain your integrity, and fight for it, it is possible to manifest your beauty-full dreams. But remember that whether your life is on display for two or two million, that regardless of what you accomplish, that you are truly magnificent. In a world obsessed with what you do, what cover of magazine your face graces, the amount of money in your bank account, the gorgeous body you adorn, I’m just here to remind you that you are inherently awesome.

Though I’m not your fairy godmother, capable of making all your wildest dreams come true, fixing all your problems, or magically transforming your life with a swish of my wand, I can offer you my unwavering belief in you. If you could see you though my eyes for even a few seconds, you would see how infinitely invaluable and how cherished you are. If you could see you through my eyes, you’d never spend another moment questioning your worth, questioning your beauty, or second-guessing your potential. Your fear would be replaced with love and your insecurities replaced with a peace and confidence transcending your chronic anxiety. The lies you’ve been told your entire life, the ones saying that you aren’t enough, would be replaced with the fact that you are profoundly and utterly extraordinary. You’re new truth would be, “I have enough, I do enough, I am enough.”

With a strong, unapologetic sense of self you would find the freedom you’ve been searching for, the permission you’ve wanted to grant yourself for so long but maybe didn’t know how. And in that space, without the help of Tinker Bell, you will have the ability to fly. You will witness the magic that we all have access to, the knowledge that you and me and everyone else we stumble upon truly are the secret weapons to all the hairy challenges threatening our world, our loved ones, and ourselves. Your civilian clothes will transform into the superhero costume you always knew existed. Knowing who you are, what you stand for, searching for your purpose, discovering it, and pursuing it creates an inspired life worthy of you waking up each day. Our dreams are only possible when we truly accept our awesomeness and let that girl inside us wave her badass flag.

So at the point of your flag-waving awesomeness, you will realize that, the thing you’ve been wondering about, brainstorming about, daydreaming about, is actually possible. Whether it’s to start your own company, apply for your dream school, move to a foreign country to follow love, quit your job, start that workout regime you’ve talked about for years, sign up for that dance class, or just dedicate yourself to a ten-minute daily mediation, the only reason it won’t happen is if you never take that big, fat leap of faith and try. So stop making excuses, believe in yourself, and know you’re worth giving that “thing” of yours a real chance, not in a year, a month, a week; not when you have enough money, meet the right person, or when the right door opens. RIGHT. NOW. The world needs you to be awesome. So take a deep breath and go for it.

Also, let go of everything in the past, live today, right now for this moment regardless of the outcome. Throw caution to the wind, spread out your wings, and fly, my dear, because it was what you were meant to do. You were born into this world to find your unique voice, to love yourself, to love those around you, and even in the smallest way, to leave the world a little more beauty-full just because you were a part of it. You were meant to find your passion and to be enthusiastically contagious because you’re lit up from the inside out. You were meant to dream and make those sparkly dreams come true so that at the end of a very long life, the tiny dash between your start date and end date on your tombstone would reflect a girl who gave life everything she had.

I need you, you need you, the world needs you, we all need you to be the most badass version of yourself, so find her and remind her to shine with all her might, every single day.

My only request,

Rock this world and be THAT GIRL!!


CHAPTER 4


RESOURCES

CHAPTER 1: BE A PASSIONISTA

Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues. Paperback edition published by Villard, December 2007.

To check out Jackie Tohn’s music and more visit www.jackietohn.com. I particularly love her song and video for “Got It In Me.” Breezy, beautiful, and inspirational too!

CHAPTER 2: BE FIRST

Julie Shannan is the deputy director of an awesome organization called Girlstart that educates and empowers K–12 girls in science, technology, engineering, and math. Visit their website at www.girlstart.com to see what they’re up to.

The Julia Roberts/Richard Gere movie Runaway Bride illustrates perfectly the dangers of living the life that others design for you (well, it’s the Hollywood version of those dangers, but you get the point). I particularly love the scene in which Julia’s character samples a counter full of eggs after she realizes she’s so out of touch with herself that she doesn’t even know what type of eggs she likes. It’s a happily ever after rom-com to be sure, but there’s a useful message at its heart. Enjoy!

Gina Rudan wrote a tremendous book in 2011 called Practical Genius: The Real Smarts You Need to Get Your Talents and Passions Working for You. To see what else Gina has to say about how to fuel your genius, hop over to her website at www.practicalgenius.com.

Leon Neyfakh, “The Power of Lonely: What We Do Better Without Other People Around,” Boston Globe, March 6, 2011.

I found Neyfakh’s article through a March 23, 2011, post titled “The Hard Facts: The Benefits of Alone Time” on Rachel Bertsche’s MWF Seeking BFF blog (www.mwfseekingbff.com). Rachel posts lots of interesting stuff there—check out Research Wednesdays!—and has written a great book by the same name. Thanks, Rachel.

CHAPTER 3: BE HARD-CORE

Gretchin Rubin, bestselling author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, recommends a strategy called “suffer for fifteen minutes” for tackling big projects. Follow this URL to find Gretchin’s May 17, 2011, blog post and video: www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project/2011/05/sufferfor-fifteen-minutes.

CHAPTER 4: BE UNPOPULAR

Hop over to YouTube to check out Remi Nicole’s music video for her song “What Is Your Dream”: www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTkwSL1jWv8.

CHAPTER 5: BE BOLD

Sheryl Sandberg, “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders,” given at TED-Women, December 2010. Follow this URL to find Sheryl’s excellent video on the TED.com website: www.ted.com/talks/sheryl_sandberg_why_we_have_too_few_women_leaders.html

Three of my favorite boys and good friends created a non-profit working to end the longest-running war in Uganda and to free the children soldiers under the rebel leader, Joseph Kony. Check them out at www.invisiblechildren.com.

Adam Braun is one of the most inspiring people I know, as is his life story. Check out Pencils of Promise at www.pencilsofpromise.org if you have a heart for kids and education.

For those of you passionate about third world countries and providing villages with clean drinking water, learn more about my friend Scott Harrison and Charity Water at www.charitywater.com.

Penny Abeywardena heads up the Girls and Women Program at the Clinton Global Initiative. Check out their site at www.clintonglobalinitiative.org to learn more about the many initiatives the foundation has started and how you can get involved.

My friend and fellow sports nut Yogi Roth is always up to something fun and inspirational. Check out what he’s up to now at www.yogiroth.com and read more about his thrilling life and career in his book, From PA to LA. Published in paperback by KMD in September 2010.

CHAPTER 6: BE RESILIENT

If you’ve never seen Pixar’s 2003 short film Boundin’ check it out. Created and performed by animator Bud Luckey, it’s a great pick-me-up when you’re feeling discouraged (when you “have a pink kink in your think”) or just want to smile.

CHAPTER 7: BE A SPONGE

Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. Published in paperback by Vintage in June 2010.

Seth Matlins, my mentor and friend, started the cool and inspirational website www.feelmorebetter.com with his wife Eva. They’re “on a mission to make the world an easier place for women and girls to be happier.” Pretty amazing stuff.

CHAPTER 8: BE OF SERVICE

Brené Brown, “The Power of Vulnerability,” given at TedxHouston, June 2010. Follow this URL to find Brené’s funny and inspiring video on the TED.com website: www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html.


SOME MORE ABOUT ME, ALEXIS JONES

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I’ve worked in the entertainment industry for the past ten years (hosted a TV show on the Red Carpet for three years, worked at Fox Sports and ESPN, was a contestant on the CBS show Survivor, hosted an interview show called The Society, and was cast as a confidence coach for MTV’s MADE. I completed my undergrad and master’s degrees at the University of Southern California and founded I AM THAT GIRL, a nonprofit inspiring girls to think for themselves, to speak their truth, and to leave this world (even a little bit) better than when they found it.

But what you really need to know about me that you can’t Google is I grew up in Austin with four older brothers and a baby sister. I am a hopeless romantic, bona fide adventure junky, a (self-proclaimed) food connoisseur; I love day-naps; and I am most passionate about reminding people how awesome they are. Italian is my favorite type of food, I cry at cheesy romantic comedies, and I was a professional hip-hop dancer in another lifetime. This book is hands down my greatest professional accomplishment.

In spite of all the pressure to “grow up,” I am most proud of having maintained a childlike wonder for the magic that surrounds us all. My dad is the best man I know, and my mom is my hero. I live to dream, have yet to lose in air hockey, and am a terrible speller. I believe in the possibility that real change is possible, and it only takes everything you got. I also won the Showcase Showdown on the Price Is Right, have unfathomable parking karma, survived thirty-three days on a deserted island, and consider myself a professional hugger.

I AM THAT GIRL

If you’d like to get involved with I AM THAT GIRL or start a chapter in your town, please visit www.iamthatgirl.com for more information and other ways to join our mission and our movement.


FOREWORD

My dear friend, my soul sister, girl-who-can-finish-my-sentences-before-I-do Alexis Jones called me to ask me a question. Would I write the foreword to her book? I ... uh ... Would I what? What would I say? Where would I start? What was she possibly thinking? The swell of fear and self-doubt began almost instantly. I found myself saying “I’d be so honored” into the receiver while trying not to throw up all at the same time. She paid me some incredibly powerful compliments, telling me what a light I am in her life and in the lives of the girls I talk to every day. How much my passion and perspective mean to her and to my audience. What a fearless warrior for girls I am. I heard the words, but none of them could get past the force field of panic that had quickly enveloped me. Remember that movie Bubble Boy? I felt like that kid, trapped inside a plastic bubble. But my bubble was comprised of all of my innermost fears and deepest, secret insecurities. They were screaming things like, “I’m much better in the moment! How will I sit and write something without being inspired in the moment by a global issue, a twitter storm, or an injustice being done somewhere? I am terrible with a blank piece of paper. I need parameters. I need ...” And in that moment I started laughing. It was slow, and then it got weird. Because I was laughing hysterically, all alone in my house, with my dogs looking up at me like I was going crazy.

Want to know why I laughed? Because I realized I was smack in the middle of my own global issue. Girl-on-girl hate is a pandemic. And in this case, it was my inner critic hating on me. The screaming doubts. The shame spiral of inadequacy. Those things were all coming from inside myself. And I remembered something my friend Jo likes to say whenever any of her friends are criticizing themselves. “Hey. That’s my best friend you’re talking about like that.” It’s amazing to see girls react to that statement. Yeah, you’re saying some truly negative things about my best friend. That friend just happens to be you. Why don’t we love ourselves the way we love our friends, ladies? Because I know I’d die for my best friends. I’d run into a burning building, stand up to the most frightening opponent, and push myself harder and farther than I thought I could possibly go for any of you. So why not for me?

There are plenty of theories out there about why this happens. How we are taught to self-shame by society. How we are pitted against each other in some imaginary competition that becomes more and more real as we play it. How we are simultaneously hyper-sexualized and demonized for our sexuality. How we are criticized for being too fat, too thin, too girly, too butch. We get put down an awful lot. And we not only take it, we dish it out. Well, guess what? That is done. Done. One more time ... shout it out with me ... D-O-N-E. Let’s go ahead, throw in the towel, and go have a meal together instead, shall we?

Now, to get to my point, I actually need to take you all back a bit. Way back. To college. A little over a decade ago—